Sunday, October 15, 2017

Movie Review: "House by the Lake" (2017)

Image provided by Random Media
Movie"House by the Lake"
Director: Adam Gierasch
Year: 2017
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 17 minutes

A couple brings their autistic daughter named Emma to their family lake house for a change of scenery. Unfortunately, the sudden move seems to have brought old habits back for Emma, who sleepwalks. She also speaks to what her parents believe is an imaginary friend, who may not be as imaginary as they think.
It's the house. By the lake. (Image provided by Random Media)
Arguments, autism, an Australian au pair, and a Fishman all come together in Adam Gierasch's "House by the Lake." The film stars James Callis and Anne Dudek as Scott and Karen, a couple with an autistic 10-year-old daughter named Emma, played by "War for the Planet of the Apes" star Amiah Miller. Karen and Scott are in a rocky place in their marriage. On top of this, they are having trouble with their daughter. They believe spending time at the family lake house will do them all some much needed good. They hire a nanny named Gwen, played by Natasha Bassett, who seems to be a lot younger and prettier than they initially thought she would be. They hoped these changes would help their family, their daughter, and their marriage stay intact, but this move and change of scenery seem to have made Emma fall into old habits like sleepwalking and talking to an imaginary friend she calls 'Fishman.' Karen's jealousy and Scott's interactions with Gwen start to put even more strain on their already turbulent relationship. Now, they are questioning if going to the lake house was a mistake, but it may already be too late.
Emma's sleepwalking returns at the house by the lake. (Image provided by Random Media)
We believe the goal of Josh Burnell and Mike De Trana's script was to create a slow-burning, tension-filled horror/thriller complete with an exploration of what it's like to be the parents of an autistic child. Unfortunately, none of that tension or social commentary comes through on screen as the majority of the film is mainly focused on Scott and Karen butting heads regarding what to do about Emma. Karen is a little too overprotective as a mother and Scott is a little too laissez-faire about being a father. If you think about it, a movie that's comprised of 92% domestic squabbles *might* be considered a horror movie to some, but to us, it's grating and incessant. Neither of the two leads is able to convincingly pull us into the story or get us invested in the narrative. The story lacks depth and the characters are almost entirely one-note. Scott and Karen regularly fight about sex, they argue about their daughter, their daughter does something regressive with her sleepwalking and/or talking to her imaginary friend, they argue some more, rinse, lather repeat for an hour and 17 minutes.
Karen and Scott are always fighting. (Image provided by Random Media)
From a technical standpoint, "House by the Lake" isn't great. Much of the lighting in this picture is way too overexposed, and we only feel the need to mention it because it was that distracting. The picture is so brightly lit that it looks like a sitcom pilot rather than a feature-length movie. Most slow-burning thrillers use light and shadow and darkness to their advantage. There isn't much variation used to set up an eerie atmosphere or tone during the daytime scenes, and these techniques are only sporadically used during the nighttime ones to sell the horror elements of the story. It's all sort of one big blob of non-changing light.
Shadows in the night. (Image provided by Random Media)
The overall concept for "House by the Lake" could have been fine, but it feels like those behind the scenes hastily approved and shot the very first draft of the script, which was in desperate need of more development. The climax of the film left us very, very underwhelmed, and the payoff is nowhere near good enough to justify the slowly paced buildup to nothing. We weren't huge fans of the acting or the dialogue, and in the end, we felt extremely let down by this movie. It doesn't feel like a finished product, and only in the last ten minutes does anything worthwhile happen.

"House by the Lake" is available now on VOD and DVD from Random Media.

My Rating: 3/10
BigJ's Rating: 3/10
IMDB's Rating: 4.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ---%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

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